I’m very fond of Italian wines for a long time now. I’ve been able to travel many times to Italy and every time I have tasted a lot of their wines, from the more common Chianti Classico to Brunello di Montalcino to Barolo and Barbaresco, to small wineries in Friuli Venezia Giulia to some interesting Sicilian wines. I like powerful wines, and Tuscany is my favorite place for that. I have enjoyed many bottles of Tuscan wines, the aforementioned and also Morellino di Scansano, Rosso di Montepulciano, etc. but among them, there is a style of wines I really love. They are not easy-to-drink wines, especially because of their price, but those wines known as Supertuscan are simply great. They are wines outside DOC rules, normally employing grapes not allowed by the DOC or just doing things on their own. We talked a few months ago about a tasting of Tenuta di Biserno. I was really impressed by those wines and also by a bottle of Tignanello I had few years ago.
There is a Supertuscan wine I’m dying to taste and that one is Sassicaia. It is one of those wines every time I see it in a wineshop I want to grab and take home. Sassicaia is one of those emblematic and iconic wines representing this style known as SuperTuscan. It is produced by Tenuta San Guido, a winery named after the Saint Guido della Gherardesca who lived during the XI century. It is located on the Tyrrhenian coast, in Bolgheri, between Livorno and Grosseto, in Maremma an area made famous by Italian Nobel prize winner Giosuè Carducci, and it stretches for 13 km from the sea to the hills.
Tenuta Di San Guido has been given its own DOC, the DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia, the first, and so far only case in Italy of a DOC contained in one estate.
Inside the Tenuta San Guido estate there are some historic buildings: Castiglioncello di Bolgheri, and the Oratory di San Guido are among them. The first one was supposedly built around 780 A.D. The Oratory was built by Simone Maria della Gherardesca in 1703 in honor of Saint Guido della Gherardesca.
We will talk now about the wines they produce, but first we have to mention that traditionally in Tuscany the wines were made using Sangiovese and other native varieties like Trebbiano, Ciliegiolo, Colorino, Malvasia, etc. (and to a lesser extent Nebbiolo). A big change was made here when they decided to start using Cabernet Sauvignon due to the fact the soil was similar to that of the Graves area in Bordeaux. Thus, Sassicaia (D.O.C. Bolgheri Sassicaia) was born, though in its early days it was a wine not too well appreciated, therefore it was mainly for family consumption. Time passed, the wine as also kept stored and it started to offer its full complexity. Years later, in 1968, it began to be commercialized. Over the next few years, the cellar was moved to a temperature controlled location, steel fermentation vats replaced wooden vats and French barrels were introduced to the aging process.
Sassicaia’s vineyards are planted in plots with different characteristics, very rich in limestone and also rocks and clay. Their altitude is between 100 and 380 meters with a West/Southwest exposition. The coupage for Sassicaia is Cabernet Sauvignon 85% and Cabernet Franc 15%. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 24 months.
The second wine of Tenuta San Guido is Guidalberto (Toscana IGT). It was created in 2000 as a wine that included Merlot in its coupage and also as a wine that could be enjoyed younger than Sassicaia. Guidalberto is made with Cabernet Sauvignon 60% and Merlot 40%. The vineyards are much younger than the ones used for Sassicaia but they are grown in the same terroir and are still handled in small plots. The ageing process is done in French and American barrels for a period of 15 months.
In 2002 another wine was introduced, this one using Sangiovese in its elaboration. Le Difese (Toscana IGT) is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangiovese. It is aged for 12 months in French and American oak barrels and for a further three months in the bottle.
Soon we will talk to Tenuta San Guido’s winemaker to know about the elaboration of their wines and the creation of an icon such as Sassiacaia.
Photos © by Tenuta San Guido